10:05 AM EST, January 25, 2013
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – University of Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o likely told the truth to talk show host Katie Couric on Thursday (Jan. 24), according to an analysis done by a Purdue University facial recognition expert.
Chris Kowal uses technology that reveals a speaker's emotions by deciphering hundreds of facial muscle micro-movements.
In the Couric interview, which aired on WSBT-TV, Te'o insists that he thought his girlfriend was real and he was not part of the hoax. Kowal says Te'o's face consistently displayed anger, sadness and disgust when discussing how hoaxers "catfished" him into believing he had a long-distance girlfriend who died of leukemia.
"After processing many different videos of Te'o to create a baseline of facial expressions, no deception is indicated," says Kowal, an assistant professor of retail sciences.
Te'o, a Heisman trophy candidate for the top-ranked Fighting Irish, saw his national fame grow further after his grandmother and long-distance girlfriend died on the same day. Recent media reports revealed that the "girlfriend" was neither dead nor real. Te'o has since been plagued with accusations that he was not the victim of a hoax, but a co-perpetrator.
Kowal also found that Te'o displayed strong emotions of sadness and anger at a press conference in December where Te'o still talked as if his girlfriend were real despite having recently learned she was not.
"He may have been in denial about the hoax," Kowal says.
Kowal uses facial recognition software similar to that used to gauge what focus group participants really feel about a product or advertisement as compared to what they tell marketing researchers. He used the technology to document what emotions the presidential candidates were projecting to voters during the general election debates in the fall.
Journalists across the nation used Kowal's findings to decipher how well the candidates were emotionally connecting with voters.
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